The newest art scene in north Boulder is characteristic of this neighborhood-centric, arts-loving city. The NoBo Arts District offers art lovers and patrons a more personalized and accessible experience with a focus on encouraging artists and engaging the community.
The rare experience of free parking is enough of an incentive to make the 10-minute drive from downtown Boulder. The unconventional and eclectic styles on display make it worth returning again and again.
The best way to experience the NoBo Arts District is to come on one of the First Friday events. The area is a large maze, with many exhibits often hidden within or behind large industrial buildings. It can be difficult to find the galleries and may require some sleuthing, though the map from the NoBo Arts District website helps tremendously.
It’s worth keeping your car close at hand in the colder winter months as the publicized galleries and shops range all the way from Emerald City to downtown Boulder. Many of the shops and galleries do not have set hours, so attending on a First Friday gives you the best chance of seeing what the NoBo Arts District has to offer.
While all of the stores and galleries in the NoBo Arts District are worth a peek, here are a few that should definitely not be missed.
1. The Essence Studio, 4593 N. Broadway
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has been making her olfactory art in the NoBo district since 2008, long before the most recent surge of galleries and independent artists in the area. Custom perfumes and oils have recently become more popular thanks to fashion magazine coverage and a celebrity following.
The Essence Studio offers ready-to-wear fragrances in gorgeous glass bottles and the option of a $75 consultation to help you chose the best fragrance for your skin chemistry. The studio also offers the luxurious option of making your own personalized scent for people who prefer to be one of a kind. Each “Designer Original” is made according to your individual chemistry through skin analysis and a one-on-one $875 consultation (which includes a 0.25-ounce pure perfume or oil essence and a 1-ounce Eau De Perfume of your signature scent). This studio currently does not participate in First Fridays, so call or email to make an appointment for a consultation or stop in during their regular business hours.
2. Boulder Photo Center Darkroom Gallery, 4949 N. Broadway, Studio 290
Photography purists will find a haven in the Boulder Photo Center Darkroom Gallery. The walls in this small space are covered almost exclusively with black and white visual commentary — addressing timely topics like homelessness and social justice. The space also serves as one of the few darkrooms left in Colorado for photographers who want to ditch digital and focus on film.
3. Settembre Cellars, 1501 Lee Hill Road, Unit 16
Settembre Cellars is an intimate venue to savor a glass of unique Colorado vino. On First Fridays, this cozy winery and tasting room becomes an exhibition room showcasing unusual artistic styles outside of gallery norms. On February’s First Friday, visitors were captivated by Doug McKenna’s mathematical art. McKenna, a computer programmer and mathematical artist, is a pioneer in fractal arts.